James' Eulogy

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By Matt Knight

This eulogy was delivered by Matt Knight at James Wharram's funeral service, which took place at 3:00pm on Thursday 30th December at Truro Crematorium.

Hi everyone. I'm Matt. And apart from being truly honoured to be here to help send James on his way to his next adventure, I am here above all as a representative, really, for the many many people worldwide who's lives have been changed, for the better, as a result of James' life work.

With Suzanne and our kids I have been the lucky guardian for the last 10 years of Hecate, one of James and Hanneke's wonderful designs. We have been sailing all over the North Atlantic - as far south as The Tropics, as far North as Cape Wrath, as far East as Greece and West as Trinidad - Hecate has looked after us and our family so beautifully - but she has also been home and expedition base for some of the World's best big wave surfers, adventure documentary makers, and has been the platform and safe haven for a world record setting swimmer - so we really have had quite a Wharram inspired adventure. Above all else Hecate has been our Sea Home and she's looked after us through thick & thin.

Pahi 52 Hecate with skipper Matt Knight standing on bow
Matt Knight on Hecate

Along the way we have been lucky to have met many others sailing around on their Wharrams, (there were no less than SIX in Carriacou!) and also, more people of the sea; who have rowed across from whatever other boat they are on, or sailed by, or stopped at the dockside - Just to say - "What a beautiful boat" and I can tell you there are few things that swells an old sailor's heart more than someone saying that about your vessel. Just recently, we were sitting out hurricane season in the mangroves in Grenada, and this guy comes over in a RIB with his mate and just in the most reverential and deeply moved tones simply said: "It's a real Wharram!" And really that was all that was needed to be said.

A long time ago I worked professionally on classic Yachts & Tall Ships. Back then Multihulls and catamarans never really did it for me - Except... every now and then on a delivery, or charter, we'd come into an anchorage in some funky remote spot - and there would be one of these interesting little voyaging vessels tied to the mangroves, pulled up on the beach, or swinging gently at anchor. Their lines and rigs so obviously more pleasing and seaworthy than most of the modern multihull designs you'd see, and the crews altogether more interesting with hair, clothing (or lack of it!); and just their overall demeanour oozing adventure, fun and romance. It soon became apparent that these interesting vessels were Wharram designs, and, over time through reading and watching I discovered more about them. But how do you put into words what it is that sparks your interest when you see a Wharram in an anchorage?

Well. Looking through the tributes paid online to James in the last few days it has been a fascinating exercise to pick out the key words that crop up repeatedly throughout the threads and accolades, tributes and stories. It kind of supports the story we all know to be true - that this isn't just our view of James but the view of a huge number of other knowledgeable people all over the world. I thought you all might like to hear just a selection of those words that have been used to describe James and his life's work, just over the last few days- this is not an exhaustive or carefully researched list, its literally just pulled out of the many expressions of respect and the tributes I have seen.

So, first some words that have described the motivation that brings people into the extended Wharram family:

  • Dream, Dreams, Dreamed
  • "The Dreams of a Generation"
  • Adventure, Adventurous, Adventures
  • Voyaging, Migration
  • Head Over Heels
  • Love
  • Peace
  • Freedom
  • Joy
  • A Gift, Giving
  • Magic
  • Sunsets, Sunrises
  • Luck, Lucky
  • Good Fortune, Fortunate
  • Polynesia, Polynesian
  • Emotion
  • Nostalgia
  • Tradition
  • Transcendence
  • Friendship
  • Community

That's quite a powerful list. But its just the beginning. Amusingly, this all being about going to sea, there has also been a little indication of the lengths people will go to to get involved in the Wharram world:

  • Torture
  • Hell
  • Hard Work
  • Adrenaline
  • Shit Scared
  • Terrifying

These are after all, words from people who understand the sea.

In describing the boats it has really hit home to me what a challenge it would be as a boat designer to meet these criteria - imagine: If someone gave you this brief... I mean where would you even start!!? I have this picture in my mind of a client coming into James and Hanneke's office and saying: "I want.. a boat that is...

  • Awesome
  • Pretty, Beautiful
  • Sporty
  • Classic
  • Affordable
  • Simple
  • Maintainable
  • Functional
  • Safe
  • Spartan
  • Minimalist
  • Timeless
  • Cool
  • Perfect
  • A Masterpiece

Where would you even start? Well, as we all know it didn't actually just happen overnight and in James' case it turned out to be 70 years' worth of commitment to a particular passion. And of course, his long collaboration, and loving partnership with Hanneke.

Which leads me on to some of the words used these last days to describe James:

  • Amazing
  • A Dream Maker
  • Pioneering, a Pioneer
  • Internationally Renowned
  • Extraordinary
  • Influential
  • Gifted, A Gift
  • A Legend, Legendary
  • A Mentor
  • Inspirational, Inspired
  • An Inspiration, Inspiring
  • Irreplaceable
  • A Visionary
  • Achievement, Achievements
  • Positive Impact
  • Respected
  • A Hero
  • Wonderful
  • Legacy

A legacy indeed. And in discovering the truly global nature of this extraordinary legacy, just listen to the list of from where, and about, people have sent their respects and their stories:

  • Africa
  • North America
  • South America
  • Central America
  • The Indian Ocean!
  • The Pacific!
  • The Atlantic!
  • Australia
  • New Zealand
  • The Southern Hemisphere!
  • The Bahamas
  • Caribbean
  • Trinidad
  • Tobago
  • Grenada, St Vincent
  • St Lucia
  • Dominica
  • Martinique & Guadeloupe
  • Antigua
  • Virgin Islands
  • Guatemala
  • Panama
  • Polynesia
  • The Marquesas
  • Tuamotus
  • Tahiti
  • Hawaii
  • Tonga
  • Fiji
  • Indonesia
  • Thailand
  • Germany
  • France
  • Spain
  • Portugal
  • The UK
  • Wales
  • Ireland
  • Scotland
  • Channel Islands
  • Sicily
  • Malta
  • Majorca
  • Madeira
  • Canary Isles
  • Cape Verde
  • The Azores
  • New York...

OK. You get the picture - you already KNOW the picture - but in case it ever starts to feel like a dream you once had - well this is the testimony and tribute borne by some of the witnesses that have also lived, and continue to live, that dream.

Through James those people, all of us, are bound by a common thread, a connection to some evolutionary or tribal past which James identified as running through People of the Sea. And the last list of words is of some of the names that some of these people have given their Wharrams. I'm ending my lists with this one because, along with all the other wonderful words that have made up that incredible lexicon in the last few days, these names illustrate perfectly the way of Wharram world, its Philosophy, of simple pleasure, fun and functionality, linked by history to the Ancient World of Spirits, Gods and Goddesses, its connectedness with the Ecosphere and the Living Ocean, of Life on Mother Earth, right back to the beginning - which Aboriginals of course, call Dreamtime.

  • Imagine
  • Wayfarer
  • I love you
  • Harmony
  • Lucky Fish
  • Hakunamatata ("no worries")
  • Jumpa Lagi ("see ya later")
  • And Brillig Twas Brillig, and the slithy toves did gyre and gimble in the wabe"

But there are also those for whom a name has also been tasked with a higher meaning, something deeper, derived from the spiritual world of ancient seafarers: Maori, Polynesians, Phoenicians and Ancient Greeks. So we have:

  • Hecate, Astarte (Goddess Witches and Queens with powers over land, sea, the cosmos heaven, womanhood and fertility)
  • Tangaroa ("the great Atua of the Seas, Lakes, Rivers and the creatures that live within")
  • Mana ("the spiritual life force energy, the healing power that permeates the universe".)
  • Pilgrim
  • Kaimiloa ("one who seeks afar")
  • Moku ("the island")
  • Waimanu ("the water Bird")
  • Taranga
  • Kaoha nui ( "stop and eat with us")
  • Largyalo ("may the gods be victorious!")
  • Spirit of the Wolf (The intelligent, Loyal, Balanced, Pathfinder)
  • Mother Ocean
  • And of course: Spirit of Gaia

What a tribute: a real celebration of what it means to be human. It can truly be said that his lifetime of commitment has given thousands of others a richer life themselves - and there are few who can say that.

All of us know, as did James, that it wouldn't have been half the legacy without all the incredible work, the nurturing, the love, and the genius of Hanneke who has been by his side for so many of the most productive and defining moments in his incredible life. James never failed to pay tribute to the women in his life - and I am sure he'd want me to finish by giving voice to the deep love, respect and condolences for you too Hanneke, on behalf of all of the wider Wharram family today.

So. Fair winds James. See you out there somewhere. And, from all of us, thank you.

- Matt Knight